SI Writer Peter King Speaks to Maroon-News

Peter King’s last football season was in the fifth grade. From that point forward, he stuck to two-hand touch games with his family on Thanksgiving. King loved football, but as soon as his hometown started making cuts, he was forced to play soccer. King did not complain; he actually began to like soccer. But it was obvious that he still had a passion for football.

Today, Mr. King is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and he works on the sets of HBO’s Inside the NFL and NBC’s Football Night in America. Also, his weekly “Monday Morning Quarterback” column for is one of the most renowned and respected football columns in America.

On any given day, Mr. King can be hard to track down. Last Tuesday, he spoke with Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver Braylon Edwards and then quickly hopped on a plane to Dallas so that he could interview quarterback Tony Romo and tight end Jason Witten for Dallas’s big game against Green Bay tonight. After that interview, King rushed back to his hotel room so that he could make phone calls and investigate the inside story on the death of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor. King works where the action is. He has no office, apart from a desk in a quiet corner of his Montclair, New Jersey home, but there is never any shortage of work.

I had a fortunate chance to speak with Mr. King this week. When asked what one of those typical days flying around the country and interviewing stars was like, he responded, “There really is no such thing as a typical day.” In King’s life, there really never has been. After graduating from Ohio University, Mr. King had still never written a sports article for a newspaper.

“After college, I still wanted to be a sports writer, but I just didn’t think that’s where the opportunity would be,” King said.

King took a job as a journalist and eventually, a job in sports opened up.

“I have never been actively looking for a job,” King said, “I have always thought that the people who want to hire people will find the good people.”

After writing about sports for the Cincinnati Enquirer, King found a job at Newsday and covered the Giants for several years. Finally, in 1989, King was offered a job at Sports Illustrated and his writing has grown in popularity since.

Over the years, King’s articles have covered a variety of topics ranging from football, his two girls’ youth sports and Starbucks. While he loves writing and working on television, the freedom he has in his column is the reason why King says writing is “his thing.” When asked why he preferred writing over television, King replied, “It’s an interesting thing. We’ve gotten into an era in journalism where if you work for a company that has a prominent website, you are not only asked to be a reporter for that website, you are also asked to be a columnist and an opinion setter.”

In all his time as a columnist and opinion setter, King has interviewed hundreds of prominent athletes and written several ground-breaking articles. These include one about Ben Johnson’s 1988 stripped Olympic Gold Medal and one about Lawrence Taylor’s cocaine abuse. But despite all of his interesting encounters, King didn’t hesitate to say which ones were the most interesting.

“If I did a top ten,” King said, “five of them would be with Brett Favre.”

Over the years, King and Favre have developed a great rapport. King would sit down with Favre for a conversation, they would go their separate ways and Favre would wake up in the morning and read King singing his praises in Sports Illustrated. Favre never had a shortage of time for King and they got to know each other well.

The weekend before Super Bowl XXXI, Favre went out to dinner with his family. His daughter Brittany wanted someone her age to sit with since many of Favre’s teammates did not have daughters her age. So King called one of his friends from college because he knew that it was his friend’s daughter Brooke’s birthday and she would love to go. Brooke cancelled her birthday party so that she could eat dinner with Brett Favre. At the end of the meal, Brooke reached up to the 6″2, 220 pound QB and handed him her lucky penny.

“Take this, and you’ll definitely win,” she said. Brett Favre and the Packers went on to defeat the Patriots, 35-21. Forty-eight hours later, King found himself wandering through a ballroom in New Orleans looking around for the Super Bowl champion quarterback. From somewhere in the middle of the room, Brett caught King looking at him and nodded in his direction. They retreated to one of the stairwells where they could escape the noise and celebration of the Super Bowl victory. Favre took a half hour to explain his day to King. Through the whole story, Favre was still wearing his uniform, and when he was done, he reached down into his sweaty sock and pulled something out. When he uncurled his massive hand, a penny was resting in his palm.

“Give this back to Brooke,” he said, “tell her it didn’t work.” Favre got up and returned to the party, and Peter King had just finished the greatest interview of his career.

Because King has been writing about the NFL for so long, he has an interesting perspective on the league. He is able to offer incredible insight into past games, like Super Bowl XXXI, but he is also one of the most informed and passionate football writers in the present. This season he has covered the New England Patriots closely, and he is interested in the prospect of a 16-0 team. But King still thinks the Patriots will not become the second undefeated and untied team in NFL history.

“I have thought all along that they are going to lose at least one game and if you asked me right now, I think I would say they are still going to lose one,” King said.

King maintains that he is not sure which team is going to be the one to knock off the undefeated Patriots, but that he thinks someone will beat them. He also noted that he thinks the Patriots cheating scandal at the beginning of this season should matter, but he does not believe Spygate is the reason they have won three Super Bowls.

The big story in the NFL this week was the death of Sean Taylor. When asked Tuesday evening about what he thought of the 24-year old defensive-back, he said, “I don’t think this was at all a happenstance. I think that Sean Taylor had some people after him. This was no random act of senseless violence.” Many officials at this point believe that Taylor was shot by a man trying to rob his house, although other details have not been released yet. King pointed to Taylor’s “checkered past,” and noted that Taylor had probably gotten himself involved with some bad people prior to the time that he was murdered.

Finally, Mr. King spoke briefly about his predictions for the playoffs. For his early Super Bowl prediction, King picked New England and Green Bay, “although I’ve got a feeling we haven’t seen the last of the Colts.” King also expects a few sleeper teams to make some noise. While King acknowledged that it is much more likely for a sleeper to come out of the NFC, he believes that the Jacksonville Jaguars are a team to be wary of in the playoffs.

“I like Garrard and Maurice Jones-Drew a whole lot,” he said. In the NFC, King picked Seattle as the sleeper team. Now that Matt Hasselbeck is throwing the ball forty times a game, the Seahawks really seem to have found their stride, and King expects a Seattle vs. Dallas or a Seattle vs. Green Bay matchup to be one of the best games of the postseason.

Mr. King concluded by adding that he often tells high school and college kids to “just love what you do.” King gets out of bed each morning, excited about the work that he gets to do. Speaking about his column, King said, “some people like it, some people dislike it and some people detest it.” But that has never discouraged him, for he’s just doing what he loves.